Ossian c. Third Century
A warrior-bard who plays a role in Celtic myth and oral tradition, Ossian was reinvented in 1760 by James Macpherson (1736-96) with the publication of his translation entitled Fragments of Ancient Poetry Collected in the Highlands of Scotland (1760). That collection was followed by the epics Fingal (1762) and Temora (1763), also presented to the reading public as translations of Ossian's works. Macpherson claimed that in these works he translated ancient Gaelic poetry originally composed by Ossian ostensibly in the third century. Furthermore, while tradition held that Ossian's origins were Irish, Macpherson asserted that Ossian was Scottish. Although Macpherson's editions were soon found to be spurious—not composed by Ossian and not dating to an earlier period, but rather the work of Macpherson himself—they nevertheless gained worldwide popularity, significantly influenced the burgeoning Romantic movement, and revitalized interest in Celtic poetry and Scottish national literature. Most modern critics agree that Macpherson's Ossianic poetry did draw material from ballads that had been preserved for centuries in the oral literature of the Scottish highlands, but that Macpherson pieced the epics together by interweaving that material with his own poetry.
By the mid-eighteenth century Scotland was ready for the so-called discovery of the Ossianic epics. In 1707, the Treaty of Union dissolved Scotland's Parliament by merging it with the English Parliament. The critic Neil Grobman has noted that Scottish culture then began to be heavily influenced by the English, resulting in a literary backlash against this trend. A Scottish literary renaissance had begun and included "a search for ancient Scottish bardic models in Homer's mode." David Hume, an Edinburgh intellectual and fervent Scottish nationalist, became active in promoting Scottish poetry. Among other authors, Hume endorsed the efforts of Scottish poet John Home, who had met Macpherson in 1759. Home encouraged Macpherson in the translation of Gaelic verse into English. One year later, Fragments was published, with Macpherson claiming their authenticity as remains of an ancient epic poem. After being financially supported by such prominent literary critics as Hugh Blair and Hume, Macpherson was persuaded to return to the Highlands of Scotland in search of even more Gaelic poetry. The venture resulted in the publication of Fingal and later, Temora, with Macpherson vouching that the poems were translations of the Gaelic epic works of Ossian.
After the publication of the works, Hume grew skeptical of their authenticity and in 1775-76 published a tract which
publicized his concerns. While Scotland remained supportive of Macpherson's claims, the national rivalry between England and Scotland, combined with attacks by Samuel Johnson on Ossian's authenticity, resulted in a rather cool English reception of the poems. Critic Susan Manning has noted that Johnson's main argument was that the language which Macpherson claimed to have translated was never a written language, and that the poems Macpherson said he had translated had never been set down in writing at all.
Despite the growing controversy surrounding the authenticity of the Ossianic poems, their popularity and influence escalated worldwide. J. S. Smart has attributed much of this popularity to the fact that Ossian embodied the ideals of the Romantic movement, which was just beginning to take root throughout Europe. The movement, led by Jean Jacques Rousseau, rejected rigid classical principles and embraced nature and primitive cultures. Ossian's poems were quickly translated into most European languages and were known to have influenced Johann Gottfried von Herder and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe; Napoleon Bonaparte also owned a copy of the works, which he carried with him.
While the popularity of Ossian grew throughout Europe, the outrage of those who doubted Ossian's authenticity resulted in further attacks. In addition to Hume and Johnson, other contemporaries of Macpherson who criticised him included Malcolm Laing and the Highland Society of Scotland. In 1800 Laing presented a thorough and scholarly argument against Ossian's authenticity. The main thrust of his analysis focused on the names used in the poems: Laing examined the names of heroes in the Ossianic poems and found that one of the names "was indisputably of eighteenth-century origin." The Highland Society of Scotland also noted that there were no materials to prove that the poems published by Macpherson represented ancient texts. The scholar Anja Gunderloch has reviewed the conclusions of the Highland Society, finding that the Society had determined that the poems were "for the most part [Macpherson's] own invention while at the same time containing passages taken from genuine Gaelic ballad texts."
Yet Ossian was not without early defenders. Blair published the first extensive defense of Ossian in 1765. Blair was followed in 1807 by Patrick Graham, who attempted to answer arguments raised by Laing, and in 1870 by Archibald Clerk. Yet the evidence presented by the early 1800s caused considerable doubt in the minds of the English, while many Scottish still clung to the belief in Ossian as the "Scottish Homer." The controversy was extended into the nineteenth century due to the national antagonism between England and Scotland.
By the beginning of the twentieth century, critics generally accepted that Macpherson's Ossian was a fraud. Modern scholars have echoed their eighteenth-and nineteenth-century predecessors, and have commented that the style, content, and form of the poems indicate that the works were created by Macpherson himself, who drew to some degree on original Gaelic ballads. W. E. Walsh has discussed the style of the Ossianic poems, arguing that "no one who is familiar with the tales of the Heroic Age in Ireland could mistake [the Ossianic poems] for early Celtic." Derick Thomson has acknowledged the Gaelic sources from which Macpherson drew in composing Fingal, noting that the sources were used primarily for "hints for his plot," and has suggested that most other elements in the poem were Macpherson's own creation. Other modern critics have attempted to explain why Macpherson's Ossian was popular and accepted as authentic despite evidence to the contrary. Many have focused on the effects of Scottish nationalism on the acceptance of Ossian; viewed as ancient Scottish epics, the poems favorably displayed the Scottish literary genius and so fostered a strong tendency to be viewed as genuine and to admit Ossian into the literary canon.
Although Macpherson's Ossian has been decisively exposed as fraudulent, the merits and influence of the poetry have been attested to by critics as well. Matthew Arnold stated in 1867 that even when all traces of the modern and the forged are removed from Ossian, the poetry still contains "the very soul of Celtic genius." George Sainstbury observed that although Macpherson was a "faker", he was also a Highlander who effectively captured the local color. Walsh has commented on the influence of Ossian on Romantic poets, especially on George Gordon, Lord Byron, and has conceded that "without Macpherson's work, and the hue and cry it created, the Scottish revival would not have taken place." Similarly, Manning has evaluated the influence of Macpherson on Sir Walter Scott and has credited Macpherson's Ossianic poetry with the popularization of Highland subjects, which were a significant part of Scott's work. Frederic Carpenter has explored Ossian's effect on American writers, and has maintained that Ossian influenced the poetry of Walt Whitman even a century after the appearance of Macpherson's translation. Carpenter has argued that "it is probable that Macpherson's choice of a rhythmic prose for his 'translations' had much to do with the genesis of Whitman's new type of free verse." While perpetrating a major literary fraud, Macpherson nevertheless appears to have left an indelible mark on the literary world.
*Principal English Editions
Fragments of Ancient Poetry Collected in the Highlands of Scotland 1760
Fingal, an Ancient Poem, in Six Books 1762
Temora, an Ancient Epic Poem, in Eight Books 1763
The Poems of Ossian 1765
The Works of Ossian 1775
*All of these editions were compiled by James Macpherson.
(The entire section is 42 words.)
SOURCE: A Critical Dissertation on the Poems of Ossian, the Son of Fingal, Garland Publishing, Inc., 1765.
[In the following excerpt from the first major examination of Ossian's authenticity, Blair defends Ossian's works as genuine.]
Among the monuments remaining of the ancient state of nations, few are more valuable than their poems or songs. History, when it treats of remote and dark ages, is seldom very instructive. The beginnings of society, in every country, are involved in fabulous confusion; and though they were not, they would furnish few events worth recording. But, in every period of society, human manners are a curious spectacle; and the most natural pictures of ancient manners are exhibited in the ancient poems of nations. These present to us, what is much more valuable than the history of such transactions as a rude age can afford, The history of human imagination and passion. They make us acquainted with the notions and feelings of our fellow-creatures in the most artless ages; discovering what objects they admired, and what pleasures they pursued, before those refinements of society had taken place, which enlarge indeed, and diversify the transactions, but disguise the manners of mankind.
Besides this merit, which ancient poems have with philosophical observers of human nature, they have another with persons of taste. They promise some of the highest beauties of poetical...
(The entire section is 12326 words.)
SOURCE: "Section I.," in Essay on the Authenticity of the Poems of Ossian, Peter Hill, Archibald Constable and Co., 1807, pp. 2-15.
[In the following essay, Richardson answers some objections previously raised regarding the authenticity of Ossian, and asserts that there is no internal evidence which invalidates the authenticity of the poems.]
The period which has been generally assigned as the æra of Ossian, is the beginning of the third century. It is admitted, that this deduction can be made only from the internal evidence of the poems which have been ascribed to him. In a case like this, we can expect no collateral evidence from the contemporary writers of Greece and Rome, to whom the language of the Caledonians was unknown, and by whom they themselves were accounted barbarous.
I am therefore disposed to consider, in the same light that Mr Laing does, the attempt which has been made, by Mr Macpherson, to connect these poems with the history of the Romans. What, indeed, can be more improbable, as Gibbon long ago remarked, than "that the son of Severus, who, in the Caledonian war, was known only by the name of Antoninus, should be described, in these Poems, by a nickname invented four years afterwards, and scarcely used by the Romans, till after the death of the emperor." I may add, that nothing can be more absurd than to suppose, that the inhabitants of Rome should bestow, upon their...
(The entire section is 2108 words.)
SOURCE: On the Study of Celtic Literature, Smith, Elder, and Co., 1867, pp. 151-54.
[Below, Arnold maintains that even when Macpherson's Ossian is stripped of all forgery and modernity, he still contains "the very soul of Celtic genius. "]
… [If,] by attending to the Germanism in us English and to its works, one has come to doubt whether we, too, are not thorough Germans by genius and with the German deadness to style, one has only to repeat to oneself a line of Milton,—a poet intoxicated with the passion for style as much as Taliesin or Pindar,—to see that we have another side to our genius beside the German one. Whence do we get it? The Normans may have brought in among us the Latin sense for rhetoric and style,—for, indeed, this sense goes naturally with a high spirit and a strenuousness like theirs,—but the sense for style which English poetry shows is something finer than we could well have got from a people so positive and so little poetical as the Normans; and it seems to me we may much more plausibly derive it from a root of the poetical Celtic nature in us.
Its chord of penetrating passion and melancholy, again, its Titanism as we see it in Byron,—what other European poetry possesses that like the English, and where do we get it from? The Celts, with their vehement reaction against the despotism of fact, with their sensuous nature, their manifold striving,...
(The entire section is 790 words.)
SOURCE: "Dissertation," in The Poems of Ossian, William Blackwood and Sons, 1870, pp. i-xlvi.
[In the following excerpt, Clerk offers a detailed defense of Ossian's authenticity and antiquity, discussing both internal and external "evidence."]
It has often been brought as a reproach against the Galel that any knowledge of Gaelic literature possessed by the world is due to the labour of strangers; that the people themselves were indifferent to the subject. And it must be admitted that the reproach is in a great degree deserved. I am glad, however, to be able to show that the first known proposal to make the English public acquainted with the poetical treasures long buried in the obscurity of the Gaelic language, was made by a genuine Celt.
Alexander M'Donald, well known to his countrymen as perhaps the ablest of their modern poets, published in 1751 a volume of original Gaelic songs; and in an English Preface to his work he makes the following remarks:—
… The other reason of (this) publication at present is to bespeak, if possible, the favour of the public to a greater collection of poems of the same sort in all kinds of poetry that have been in use amongst the most cultivated nations from those of the earliest composition to modern times; their antiquity either proved by historical accounts, or ascertained by the best tradition, with a...
(The entire section is 22176 words.)
SOURCE: "Ossian," in My Literary Passions, Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1895, pp. 66-8.
[In the following essay, Howells briefly conveys his impressions of Ossian, stating that early on, he "gave the pretensions of Macpherson an unquestioning faith."]
Very likely the reading of Ossian had something to do with my morbid anxieties. I had read Byron's imitation of him before that, and admired it prodigiously, and when my father got me the book—as usual I did not know where or how he got it—not all the tall forms that moved before the eyes of haunted bards in the dusky vale of autumn could have kept me from it. There were certain outline illustrations in it, which were very good in the cold Flaxman manner, and helped largely to heighten the fascination of the poems for me. They did not supplant the pastorals of Pope in my affections, and they were never the grand passion with me that Pope's poems had been.
I began at once to make my imitations of Ossian, and I dare say they were not windier and mistier than the original. At the same time I read the literature of the subject, and gave the pretensions of Macpherson an unquestioning faith. I should have made very short work of any one who had impugned the authenticity of the poems, but happily there was no one who held the contrary opinion in that village, so far as I knew, or who cared for Ossian, or had even heard of him. This saved...
(The entire section is 642 words.)
SOURCE: "The Age and the Race," in James Mac Pher-son: An Episode in Literature, David Nutt, 1905, pp. 1-32.
[Below, Smart reviews the literary climate of the mid-eighteenth century, outlining the rise of Romanticism as both a rejection of Classicism and an embracing of nature. Smart maintains that Ossian's works were seen as the epitome of the ideals of the new Romantic movement, but that by the mid-nineteenth century the works were viewed as fraudulent.]
James Macpherson is a poet whose fame in his own epoch now astonishes posterity. He appeared at a time of transition; an old school was going out, a new one coming in; and the new school made him one of its heroes and pioneers.
The classical literature of the early eighteenth century had passed its prime, and was dying, like all things, of its own limitations. The reaction against it which led to the romantic movement was beginning. If it were possible to describe the poetry of Pope's age in a single phrase, it might be called one which had its roots in criticism rather than imagination. It aimed at a revival or emulation of Latin and Greek literature by using the works of antiquity as models and its critics as law-givers. The taste of the rising generation now demanded something less studied, more spontaneous and more exciting. The younger men were seeking also for a wider outlook upon society and history....
(The entire section is 7689 words.)
SOURCE: "The Fugitives from the Happy Valley," in The Peace of the Augustans: A Survey of Eighteenth-Century Literature as a Place of Rest and Refreshment, G. Bell and Sons, Ltd., 1916, pp. 281-328.
[In the following excerpt, Saintsbury argues that although Macpherson's Ossian was a fraud, Macpherson nevertheless succeeded in portraying Highland local color effectively and originally.]
… [It may be] difficult to get the modern reader to tackle Ossian. … But few people can be unaware that no such difficulty was felt by original readers of that singular compilation, which, if not real poetry itself, inspired poetry in two generations at least (the second of these being one of the most poetical in the world's history), and spread its influence all over Europe. What seems necessary on the controversial side—and that is but little—may be said below;1 we must here take Ossian simply at its "face-value," though that face-value itself varies as we look at the obverse and reverse of the coin—the face which appeared to contemporaries who did not question its genuineness, and that which it bears to us when we leave the technical question of genuineness more or less—altogether if possible—out of sight and mind.
It has been said that it requires considerable critical exercise or expertness to appreciate, in any critical fashion, the charm of Gray's...
(The entire section is 1542 words.)
SOURCE: "The Vogue of Ossian in America: A Study in Taste," in American Literature, Vol. 2, No. 4, January, 1931, pp. 405-17.
[In the essay below, Carpenter analyzes the reaction of Americans to the works of Ossian, asserting that a century after the poems first appeared, they influenced in a positive way the poetry of Walt Whitman.]
It has been said so often as almost to become a truism that American literary taste has followed slowly after European literary taste at an interval of from twenty to fifty years.1 For instance, in the eighteenth century English literary circles developed a love for wit and elegance, and, after a due period of incubation, the Hartford Wits and Washington Irving translated this vogue to America. Then the great Romantic writers captured English taste by storm, and several decades later a Romantic movement sprang up in America. Then came European realism, followed by the realism of Howells and his disciples. And so on. Usually the fact of imitation by American writers is accepted without question, and the lag in literary taste in this country is set forth as evidence of mental backwardness or torpor. The implication is that if only American writers had kept up with the trends of European taste more alertly, they would have achieved better results.
This generalization contains a large element of truth, but needs...
(The entire section is 4554 words.)
SOURCE: "MacPherson's Ossian," in Queen's Quarterly, Vol. XLV, No. 3, Autumn, 1938, pp. 366-76.
[In the following essay, Walsh reviews the critical controversy over Ossian's authenticity, highlighting the findings of the Highland Society of Scotland as well as the internal stylistic evidence against Macpherson's claim.]
Macpherson's imposture is probably unique in the annals of literature. If he had looked forward and deliberately planned it, realizing the publicity it would receive, it is doubtful that he would ever have attempted it; but he was drawn into it in the first place by a tempting and unlooked-for opportunity, and once he was committed his stubborn pride would not allow him to withdraw. He was proud, romantic and gifted, but unfortunately devoid of moral sense.
He was born at Ruthven, Inverness, in the parish of Kingussie, in the year 1736. He studied at King's College, Aberdeen, and afterwards at the University of Edinburgh. In spare time he taught at the schoolhouse of his native place, and later became tutor to a young gentleman at Moffat. There he had the good fortune to meet John Home, the poet, and the literary adventure was launched. Home had heard vaguely of the old Gaelic lore in the Highlands and was eager to know more. Macpherson had already published in the Scots Magazine a poem entitled The Highlander, and Home was delighted to hear that he had...
(The entire section is 4052 words.)
SOURCE: "Fingal: The Garbh mac Stáirn and Magnus Ballads," in The Gaelic Sources of MacPherson's 'Ossian,' Folcroft Library Editions, 1973, pp. 13-20.
[Here, Thomson surveys the Gaelic sources he believes Macpherson used in composing Fingal. Thomson maintains that Macpherson drew on twelve identifiable passages for "hints for his plot" in Fingal, but that in the case of Temora, which suffers from an almost non-existent plot, Macpherson appears to have drawn on only one Gaelic passage.]
Fingal is probably to be regarded as Macpherson's magnum opus. Some of the shorter pieces may claim a greater felicity, and indeed the lack of architectonic power which Arnold attributed, with some justice, to the Celts, and particularly to Ossian, may be attributed to Macpherson also. But when Fingal is compared with Macpherson's other essay in epic, Temora, the measure of his success in the former becomes more apparent. His theme, at least, was heroic, although his treatment of the theme was at times arbitrary. W. A. Craigie, writing on Fingal, remarks,
Had the same thing been done by one of equal genius at an earlier date there might have been a great Gaelic epic, not inferior in interest to those of Greece or later Europe.1
The theme of Fingal may be described briefly in the...
(The entire section is 9191 words.)
SOURCE: "James MacPherson, Ossian, and the Revival of Interest in Oral Bardic Traditions in Eighteenth-Century Scotland," in Midwestern Journal of Language and Folklore, Vol. VI, No. 1-2, Spring / Fall, 1980, pp. 51-5.
[In the following essay, Grobman discusses the eighteenth-century rise in interest in Scottish oral tradition and notes that this focus helped to ensure the initial popularity of Macpherson's Ossianic poetry.]
When Scotland lost its own Parliament by merging with the English Parliament on May 1, 1707, with the Treaty of Union, Scottish culture succumbed steadily to English influences. Scottish poets and musicians continued to leave for English cities, a process begun in 1603 when the departure of James VI for England forced court patronage of the arts to cease in Scotland. Yet Scottish national pride continued to grow, causing many poets and writers to resist anglicization stubbornly and turn to a regional, vernacular Scottish-Gaelic source of folk poetry.
A leading Scottish Scholar, Thomas Blackwell, while teaching at Marischal College in Aberdeen, extolled the superiority and excellence of the Greek bard, Homer, and Greek epic in general. He also suggested that Homer, as well as other ancient bards, was an oral poet-performer using formulaic techniques and that his mythology was transmitted orally, particularly in song.1 This caused two dominant strategies in...
(The entire section is 2229 words.)
SOURCE: "Ossian, Scott, and Nineteenth-Century Scottish Literary Nationalism," in Studies in Scottish Literature, Vol, XVII, 1982, pp. 39-54.
[Below, Manning contends that the controversy over the authenticity of Ossian "was artificially maintained into the nineteenth century," when literary issues were confused with the "contemporary national antagonism between England and Scotland."]
The "Celtic Revival" of the later eighteenth century formed part of the wider European movement away from literary neoclassicism towards a primitivist stance which looked to the barbarous past of "uncivilised" nations as the true wellspring of untutored inspiration and poetic truth. Research into the nature of the Celtic past was chiefly carried out by such accomplished classical scholars as Thomas Gray and Evan Evans, who gave respectability to the enterprise, and produced such work as the latter's Specimens of the Poetry of the Antient Welsh Bards.1
In Scotland a young Highland schoolmaster, James Macpherson, was quick to grasp the Rousseauistic mood of the times, and while travelling as tutor to a young nobleman, he met the playwright John Home (the celebrated author of Douglas) to whom
he showed what he said were fragments of ancient Gaelic poetry still recited in the Highlands. One of the pieces, The Death of Oscar, he translated at...
(The entire section is 5346 words.)
SOURCE: "Ossian and the Canon in the Scottish Enlightenment," in Ossian Revisited, edited by Howard Gaskill, Edinburgh University Press, 1991, pp. 109-28.
[In the following essay, Price studies the factors that propelled the works of Macpherson's Ossian temporarily into the canon of English literature.]
The publication of Fragments of Ancient Poetry, Collected in the Highlands of Scotland (1760), Fingal (1762), and Temora (1763) illustrates a concerted, if an unusual, attempt to expand the literary canon: concerted in that there seems in retrospect to have been a conspiracy among some of the Scottish literati to force the poem into the canon, and unusual in that the works being thus forced were not 'new' at all but had the authority of antiquity. Richard Sher has commented that 'Macpherson, it is true, produced the Ossianic "translations" themselves, but the Edinburgh "cabal" provided the inspiration, incentive, financial support, letters of introduction, editorial assistance, publishing connections, and emotional encouragement that brought Ossian into print.'1 The antiquity of Macpherson's 'translations' was, of course, a subject of dispute, and it is possible that the dubious nature of these publications militated against their ready incorporation into the traditional canon of English literature. For example, when the Aberdonian philosopher and literary theorist John...
(The entire section is 8840 words.)
SOURCE: "Celts, Greeks, and Germans: Macpherson's Ossian and the Celtic Epic," in 1650-1850: Ideas, Aesthetics, and Inquiries in the Early Modern Era, Vol. 1, edited by Kevin J. Cope, AMS Press, 1994, pp. 3-22.
[Here, Weinbrot argues that eighteenth-century British readers assessed their Greek, German, and Celtic cultural inheritances in the light of defining their national identity. Weinbrot states that during this time, when both Greek and German literature were being re-evaluated and found too violent, Macpherson's Ossian presented a more appealing literary hero.]
In 1787 John Pinkerton laments that "this may be called the Celtic Century, for all Europe has been inundated with nonsense about the Celts."1 Whether sense or nonsense Celtomania reflects a gradual change in British attitudes towards the classical south, the Continent's Germanic north, and Britain's Scottish north. Such changes are part of the century-long battle between the Ancients and the Moderns and reflect even longer efforts to define national identity through national literature. In so doing, eighteenth-century British readers responded to their complex inheritance in several ways—including assessment of their Greek, German and, especially for James Macpherson, their Celtic contexts.
All readers once knew that Homer was the father and best model of poetry, the encyclopedia of knowledge, and the exemplar...
(The entire section is 7708 words.)
SOURCE: "Eighteenth-Century Fraud and Oral Tradition: The 'Real' Ossian," in Orality, Literacy, and Modern Media, edited by Dietrich Scheunemann, Camden House, 1996, pp. 44-61.
[In the following essay, Gunderloch examines the manner in which Macpherson, under the guise of Ossian, approached and appropriated Scottish oral traditions, and explores the tension that exists between the genuine Scottish oral materials and Macpherson's literary treatment of them.]
The Gaelic literary tradition which flourished in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland in the second half of the eighteenth century was almost exclusively oral in character and only a small amount of this material is extant in the shape of manuscripts which contain texts taken down from the recitation of the bearers of oral tradition. One example of these survives in the intriguing collection of Gaelic heroic ballands made by the Rev. Alexander Camp-bell of Portree, a minor figure in the infamous Ossianic Controversy. Born in the Isle of Skye in 1770, Campbell became minister of Portree in 1799 and remained in this post until his death in 1811. His entry for the parish of Portree in the Old Statistical Account of Scotland reflects his interest in oral tradition and matters Ossianic:1 in the section Hills, Woods, Lakes, and Rivers Campbell refers to a certain hill which is "called Ait Suidhe Thuin [recte Ait' Suidhe...
(The entire section is 8278 words.)
Cristea, S. N. "Ossian v. Homer: An Eighteenth-Century Controversy; Melchior Cesarotti and the Struggle for Literary Freedom." Italian Studies XXIV (1969): 93-111.
Discusses the first extensive translation, sold in book form, of Ossian's poetry. The translator was an Italian, Melchior Cesarotti, who, Cristea explains, used the poems of Ossian to attack Homer.
Edmunds, Kathryn. "'der Gesang soll deinen Namen erhalten': Ossian, Werther, and Texts of / for Mourning." Goethe Yearbook VIII (1996): 44-65.
Examines the influence of Ossian on Goethe's Werther.
Krause, David. "The Hidden Oisín." In The Profane Book of Irish Comedy, pp. 58-104. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1982.
Surveys the oral traditions surrounding the "mythic Oisín or Usheen," asserting that in medieval and later Celtic literature, the character was a comical and mock-heroic figure. The critic argues that Macpherson distorted original materials and employed "a maximum of rhetorical extravagance, which was his own fiction" to create a hero "to suit the mood of his time."
Lowery, Margaret Ruth. "'Imagination Kindled at Antique Fires."' In Windows of the Morning: A Critical Study of William Blake's "Poetical Sketches," 1783, pp. 170-93. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1940.
Portions of this chapter analyze the influence...
(The entire section is 402 words.)